Northwestern’s Panhellenic Association delegates vote to cancel formal sorority recruitment


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Northwestern’s sorority quad. A recent IPR study reported that women in sororities experience a conflict between their feminist values and the realities of the Greek system.

Isabelle Sarraf, Campus Editor

Delegates from Northwestern’s 11 Panhellenic Association chapters voted to cancel a formal PHA-sponsored recruitment this academic year.

According to Weinberg senior Jessica Tartakovsky, PHA’s VP of Membership, the delegates’ decision was based on concerns for hosting a virtual recruitment and “uncertainty” among chapter status surrounding the Abolish Greek Life movement. Each individual chapter had an internal discussion on canceling formal recruitment — some holding votes to see where the majority of members stood on the issue.

Two weeks after the chapters’ internal discussions, PHA delegates each voted on behalf of their chapters. Votes among the delegates pass with a two-thirds majority, which means only eight of the 11 chapters had to vote in favor of cancellation for it to pass. PHA told The Daily it was unable to disclose which chapters, or how many, voted for or against the cancellation of formal recruitment.

Last month, PHA released a statement acknowledging its harmful history and the current movement to abolish Greek life on campus. In the statement, PHA said it would stop charging chapters for dues that go toward recruitment, as those are the only dues PHA has direct discretion over.

Throughout the summer, an Abolish NU IFC/PHA Greek Life Instagram account had facilitated community-wide discussion on the harm that the institution inflicts on members of the NU community.

According to PHA President Afnan Elsheikh, delegates discussed a variety of reasons for and against cancelling recruitment. The Weinberg senior said a virtual format would be inaccessible for some potential new members because Zoom requires WiFi and a device with video capabilities. They added that class disparities would be “more prominent” through Zoom, because it would allow the sorority members to see into PNMs’ houses.

“Our reasons for considering cancelling recruitment came from COVID concerns which are inherently tied into the AGL discussion about exclusivity,” Elsheikh said. “If we continue to exist, it is Panhellenic’s duty to ensure we are as inclusive as possible.”

On the other hand, some argued the opposite point that holding formal recruitment actually increases inclusivity and accessibility by allowing PNMs to visit all 11 chapters. Without formal recruitment, the individual chapters are the ones to seek out PNMs, Elsheikh said, which could exclude students who don’t have previous ties to the PHA community.

Even with the cancellation of formal recruitment, the National Panhellenic Conference established that every chapter has a right to recruit and that attempts to entirely prevent chapters from recruiting would be an “infringement” on that right, Elsheikh said. PHA chapters can still choose to recruit members informally, under whatever level of autonomy their national organization grants.

In an email to The Daily, Dani Weatherford, CEO of the National Panhellenic Conference, said the organization remains committed to supporting the Panhellenic community at NU by helping create more accessible recruitment practices in future years.

NPC’s Access and Equity Advisory Committee, Weatherford said, is currently reviewing policies to provide recommendations on systemic changes to processes like formal recruitment “to reduce barriers for women of all backgrounds to join our sisterhoods on campuses across the country.”

“While we firmly believe that the sorority community creates vitally important women’s only spaces, we know that our community at Northwestern and elsewhere has also too often fallen short in creating a welcoming environment for all women – including Black and Brown women,” Weatherford said. “And we’ve been clear that we must review and change systems and norms that have historically centered and benefited White women.”

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